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Scaling technical architecture


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By Steven Black (, Director of Engineering at DigitalOcean (

A business journey is full of obstacles & twists that make it hard for technical teams to adapt their infrastructure. It’s a challenge where it’s key to choose the right data points at each step 

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Scaling technical architecture

  1. 1. 2 Scaling Your Startup Making the Right Decisions at the Right Times
  2. 2. Three Stages of Scaling ○ Making the right technology decisions ○ Building effective engineering processes ○ Growing the organization 3
  3. 3. Making the Right Technology Decisions ○ Always remain flexible ○ Watch your runtime costs ○ Be mindful of your decisions 4
  4. 4. Groupon ○ Grew from 0 to 25,000 employees in <5 years ○ Development focus shifted several times before market acceptance ○ Monolithic architecture pushed to the limits of vertical scaling ○ Acquisitions and expansions added incompatible technology stacks ○ Technology decisions made in a reactive manner ○ Refocused development efforts on a cohesive, scalable plan ○ Shifted towards horizontal scaling to address load ○ Standardized APIs to reduce client development costs ○ Created an abstraction layer that allowed seamless technology transitions ○ Instrumented code for availability, usage and performance 5
  5. 5. Building Effective Engineering Processes ○ Manage technology diversity ○ Capture the knowledge ○ Invest in your development tools ○ Nourish your force-multipliers 6
  6. 6. Yahoo ○ Yahoo grew from 500 to >25,000 employees in 5 years ○ Growth triggered massive bottleneck getting new hires ramped up ○ Getting new hires ramped up killed productivity for “old-timers” ○ Rapidly became too large for people to understand how the org worked ○ Standardized tools and practices ○ Defined rules and practices for using core languages (C++/PHP) effectively ○ Developed package and installation tech to ensure proper versioning and installs ○ Established development practices that reduced build time by over 90% ○ Created Platform team and established guidelines for responsibilities 7
  7. 7. Growing the Organization ○ Invest in the culture ○ Hire for teams, not individuals ○ Concentrate on your needs 8
  8. 8. Netflix ○ Netflix wanted to evolve from DVD-by-mail to Streaming ○ Streaming operated on a different legal framework than DVDs ○ Consumer-friendly streaming clients didn’t exist ○ Available consumer bandwidth was scarce and erratic ○ Built the teams and technology required ○ Established legal office in Hollywood to drive rights deals ○ Developed cheap hardware client that worked with existing TVs ○ Developed the encoding and transmission technology ○ Moved to the Cloud (eventually) 9
  9. 9. Scaling Your Startup ○ All companies face challenges of scaling ○ The issues, and their importance, will evolve ○ Understand the limits in technology and organizations to know when to react 10
  10. 10. 11 Thank you!